Throughout March, we posted a series of interviews with NYPA’s female engineers in honor of Women’s History Month. The last post features a Q&A session with Katie O’Toole.
1. How did you enter the engineering field? How did you decide on your specialty? In high school, I excelled in math and science, and with my dad as a role model I thought engineering would be a good fit for me. Through my studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, I took an Intro to Electrical Engineering class and I knew that that was what I wanted to do. Not only did I find it interesting, but I knew that going into the power industry would provide job security, since everyone needs electricity.
2. Did you have a female engineer as a mentor? No.
3. What makes you proud to work at NYPA? How long have you worked here? I am proud to work for NYPA because it is a well-known company dedicated to delivering low-cost, reliable clean energy to all of New York. I have worked at NYPA for 2 years and 10 months.
4. How many positions have you held at NYPA? One. I am an Associate Electrical Engineer with the Electrical Engineering Group.
5. What things do you love most about engineering? What I love the most about engineering is that there is something new to learn every day, whether it is a new piece of equipment or system to learn about. Technology is always changing, making it is so important to know what is available and how to use it properly.
6. What are the most difficult aspects of your job? What parts do you enjoy the most? The most difficult and enjoyable part of engineering is that no two jobs are the same. While you might have some background knowledge of a similar project that will be helpful, there are always new challenges to work through which keep things interesting and exciting.
7. What project that you have worked on are you most proud of? The project that I am most excited and proud of being a part of is the Lewiston Pump Generating Plant Life Extension Modernization (LPGP LEM) project because it is such a big undertaking that involves coordination between so many different people and equipment. It is fascinating to see how carefully all the phases of this project are planned and actuated successfully.
8. Did you face any obstacles in becoming an engineer? If so, which was the biggest one? Yes, when I started college I had professors tell me that I would never make it as an engineer because I did not pick things up as quickly as other students and that I should consider other career options. That gave me the drive to work even harder to reach my goal of becoming an engineer. Not only did I graduate and find a job as an electrical engineer right out of school, but I graduated on the Dean’s List.
9. What valuable lessons have you learned as your career as a female engineer has evolved? I have learned no matter what gets thrown your way, to take things one step at a time. Breaking down overall jobs into individual tasks makes them much easier to tackle and much less intimidating.
10. What advice would you offer young women considering engineering as a profession? There is no such thing as routine work in engineering, you need to be willing to step up to the plate and not be afraid to take on whatever challenges are thrown your way.
11. If you had to use one word to describe your opinion of the engineering profession, what would it be? One word I would use to describe the engineering profession is multifaceted, because not only are there a vast amount of projects that you can get thrown into, but there are many different steps that must be taken from a conceptual design, to construction, to a fully functioning system.
12. What is one thing about yourself that most people would find surprising? One thing that people might find surprising about me is that I am a professional USA gymnastics coach.